The objective of science education is imperative and the method is engaging. It also provides a pathway for original scholarship. With the right topic and the right students, inquiry activities designed to illustrate a principle can mature into novel research projects. I helped mentor students on such projects in the lab, greenhouse, herbarium and field. Our collaborations have produced great outcomes, including grants, co-authored manuscripts and award-winning posters. For some examples of projects that interest me and students who have succeeded in my lab please follow the links below

Independent Study Projects | Thesis Projects

Independent Study Projects

New College offers a 3 week immersive research experience every January. Students have worked with me individually and as groups with a goal of refining their thesis ideas, submitting their results to Aeolous, or even a peer reviewed scientific journal. If you are interested in working with me, you must contact me by the first week following fall break. I give preference to students who have taken one or more of my classes.


Areas of interest within discipline:

  • Botany (including mycology and ethnobotany)

  • Forestry (including forest dynamics and dendrochronology)

  • Plant ecological physiology

  • Population genetics

  • Comparative methods in evolution

  • Microbial ecology

  • Ecosystem ecology

  • Global change biology

  • Bayesian statistical inference

Areas of interest outside of discipline:

  • Science education research

  • Environmental policy

  • Botanical illustration

Examples of projects:
Computer-based: Evaluate how species have/will respond to climate change and sea level rise by applying statistical models to collection data and museum specimens. Lab-based: Investigate how fungi and bacteria interact to release carbon dioxide from plant litter in a microcosm experiment. Field-based: Inventory plant species along an ecological gradient at a local natural area in coordination with managers. Off-campus: Conduct an internship at a local environmental organization or contribute to ongoing research at a local botanical institution.

Expectations for satisfactory progress and completion:
Students will provide weekly progress reports in person or via skype.  Each progress report will include the objectives accomplished, data collected, problems encountered and proposed course of action for the upcoming week.  Satisfactory projects must document all research methods used, including data sources and analysis code in a backed-up digital format, like a wiki.  Most projects will involve a written summary of outcomes that is due by the end of the ISP period.

Thesis projects

I am passionate about mentoring undergraduate student thesis research and have experience working with students at a broad range of institutions. For examples, check out the Hall of Fame below.



Student: Kevin Dunham (UMSL Biology Major)

Project: "Changes in wood hardenss during decay"

Outcomes: Co-authored manuscript. Kevin manages the ambient air quality network for Mecklenburg Co. NC (Go Kevin!).

Kevin set up experiments to see how penetrometers (pictured at right) measure wood density versus wood hardness. He showed that many factors influence these relationships. Kevin and I are still collaborating on a few projects.



Student: Robert Montgomery (WUSTL Honors Biology Major)      

Project: "Gene flow and polyploidy in Southern Illinois Dodecatheon."

Outcomes: Co-authored Manuscript. Rob recieved is M.D. from Harvard University Medical School (Go Rob!).

Rob (pictured in the field at right) collected shootingstars, sequenced their DNA and conducted a fitness trial on seeds in the greenhouse.


Student: Anne Greenberg (WUSTL Honors Environmental Studies Major)

Project: "A Test of the Evolutionary Rates Hypothesis."

Outcomes: Washington University Achievement in Natural Science in Environmental Studies Award. Anne Received her Ph.D. from Michael Donoghue's lab at Yale University (Go Anne!).

Anne successfully applied for funding for fieldwork in central Mexico where we collected two different species of plants for comparison to populations in the midwest (as illustrated below).




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